Double Olympic gold-medallist Dame Kelly Holmes was ‘blown away’ by Basingstoke’s Sports Centre.
The Olympic Champion in the 800 and 1,500 metres at the 2004 Athens Games was at the centre in Festival Place last Thursday to celebrate the £500,000 refurbishment of the Evolve gym.
The 47-year-old said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been invited by the Basingstoke Sports Trust to visit the sports centre.
“It was great to have the chance to speak with younger members of the community, I really hope I can inspire them to come (and) take part in some of the fantastic activities on offer.
“I have been blown away by the high standards and quality of the sports centre. The local community has some excellent facilities on their doorstep from the brand new Evolve gym right through to its lovely café area.
“With all these great services there is every opportunity available to the community to further sport participation or try a new activity.”
Concerns had been raised over the future of the sports centre because a 153-bedroom Village Hotel with leisure facilities is due to be built at Basing View.
But council officials have been steadfast in their support for the centre, saying they want to maintain its ‘valuable contribution’ to the borough.
Dame Kelly spoke to young people on the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme as well as those on the Basingstoke Sports Council Scholarship programme.
The 150-station mixed gym features state-of-the-art technology and the latest cardio and resistance equipment, a training zone and free weights.
Capacity has been given a boost, so there will be greater accessibility during peak times and reduced waiting times for popular machines.
James Starbuck, chief executive for Basingstoke Sports Trust, said: “We were delighted to welcome Dame Kelly to celebrate this fantastic refurbishment.
“Our top priority is engaging the community in healthier, more active lifestyle choices and we are confident we have achieved the perfect mix of equipment to engage a wide demographic.”